Category Archives: Voting

Moran concerned about military voting

Whatever the reason, it’s a serious concern that the number of absentee ballots requested by military service members is much lower this year than in 2008. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., brought welcome attention to the issue last week, accusing the Defense Department of failing to adequately assist service members in voting. “The Department of Defense has an obligation under federal law to assist those voting on military installations overseas. No effort should be spared to make certain the men and women serving our country in uniform – and the families by their side – can exercise their right to choose the leaders responsible for sending them into harm’s way in defense of our democracy,” Moran said in a statement. According to an August inspector general’s report, the Pentagon hadn’t set up on-base voter-assistance offices, as required by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009.

Pennsylvania voter-ID law put on hold

Another voter-ID law has been blocked. This time it was in Pennsylvania, where a state judge said the law could not go into effect before the November election. Opponents of the law had argued that it was deliberately aimed at disadvantaging minorities, and they cited a top GOP state lawmaker who boasted that the law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Last month, a federal court panel struck down a voter-ID law in Texas, and a state court blocked Wisconsin’s law. South Carolina’s voter-ID law is still tied up in federal court.

GOP having its own ACORN problem?

Republicans have greatly exaggerated the occurrence of voter fraud to justify new state voter-ID and registration laws. Meanwhile, a firm hired by the Republican National Committee and several state Republican parties has been submitting voter-registration forms with clear irregularities, including misspelled names and missing dates of birth. After news of the problems broke last week, the RNC fired the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, which is run by a GOP strategist. Several states have begun investigations. Submitting fake voter-registration forms does not necessarily mean that someone would vote illegally – though that’s what Republicans claimed in 2008 when they accused the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, of falsifying forms.

Do high school IDs work for voting?

With only six weeks left before the November elections, there is still confusion about what voter IDs are acceptable in Kansas. Brad Bryant, deputy assistant secretary of state, said he thinks that high school IDs would be allowable, but election officials in several counties don’t think they are, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. There is also uncertainty about whether only public school IDs would be acceptable, or whether a private school ID would count, too. Meanwhile, the civil rights group Advancement Project issued a report Monday estimating that as many as 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens may be deterred from registering and voting because of new voting laws. Mission accomplished?

Ryun a leader in effort to stop Democratic voter fraud

Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t the only well-known Kansas name on the GOP front lines in a fight against the so-called epidemic of voter fraud. A New York Times article noted that former U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun (in photo), who represented the 2nd Congressional District from 1996 to 2007, now chairs the Madison Project, a political action committee financing a plan called Code Red USA to blanket polling places in swing states with conservative election observers watching for Democrats bent on voter fraud. “Our mission is to organize, equip, train and mobilize grassroots conservatives to take back America,” says a Code Red USA video, which describes the “Obama political machine” as “absolutely determined to do anything to stay in power.”

GOP voting laws running into roadblocks

GOP efforts to erect roadblocks to voting have been running into their own roadblocks in the courts. And correctly so. Last week, a federal judge in Ohio blocked a GOP plan to end early voting on the Friday afternoon before Election Day. In 2008, more than 93,000 people in Ohio voted on the final weekend and Monday before Election Day, many of them African-Americans who voted after attending church. Federal judges also last week struck down Texas’ voter-ID law and a redistricting map that disadvantaged minorities. Also last week, a judge rejected new restrictions in Florida that would have prevented the League of Women Voters and other groups from registering voters. The week before that, a three-judge panel restored early voting in parts of Florida. South Carolina’s voter-ID law is still in court, and Pennsylvania’s law, which a state appeals court upheld recently, is scheduled for a state Supreme Court hearing next week.

GOP needs broader appeal

The GOP needs to broaden its appeal if it wants to win in November, columnist Michael Barone wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In the 2008 election, whites without a college education accounted for half of the votes cast for John McCain. When the GOP has had more success at the polls, it has appealed to a broader electorate. In 2010, for example, white no-college voters accounted for 42 percent of the voters for winning congressional Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned that the GOP can’t lose the demographics race. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term,” he said.

Campaign spending record wasn’t surprising

It was no surprise  – especially for those who were deluged with campaign mailers – that spending by political action committees during the final days of the Aug. 7 primary set a new record. PACs spent nearly $800,000 in the last 10 days before the election. In 2010, they spent less than $15,000 in the final days. Half of the last-minute spending this year was by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce PAC, which targeted moderate GOP incumbents for defeat. Throughout the entire primary election cycle, the Kansas Chamber PAC spent $675,810, far more than any other PAC. And keep in mind, this is only the spending by PACs. It doesn’t include the spending by advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity, which doesn’t have to be disclosed.

Voter ID controversy will continue

A Pennsylvania judge decided today not to issue a preliminary injunction of his state’s new voter ID law, meaning that the requirements will be in place for the November presidential election unless the Pennsylvania Supreme Court intervenes. But the controversy will continue. GOP lawmakers argue that the law is needed to protect the integrity of voting. Others contend that the law is really aimed at reducing turnout among minorities and the poor. (The GOP House leader in Pennsylvania once boasted that the new law “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state.”) A national study released this week found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. That amounts to one case per every 15 million registered voters nationwide. An estimated 1.3 million voters in Pennsylvania don’t have the required ID.

Sedgwick County election commissioner failed first big test

Before the polls closed Tuesday, Secretary of State Kris Kobach seemed pleased with the primary and especially the first statewide test of the voter-ID law he advocated. “We have had good reaction all over the state,” he told the Kansas City Star. Too bad Kobach didn’t cap off his tour of polling places in Wyandotte, Johnson and Shawnee counties with a trip to Sedgwick County, which saw the slowest, most-confusing election night in memory. In the first big election for his appointee, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman, her office initially sowed mass confusion by reporting advance-ballot totals as if they reflected the vast majority of the precincts, then inexplicably took more than four hours to deliver final numbers. During the day, there also were some glitches with the new electronic poll books, just as there had been in Wichita’s February special election. Kobach and Lehman need to ensure they are ready for the Nov. 6 turnout, which will be far bigger than Tuesday’s.

One county trying to remove barriers to voting

One Kansas county is trying to take some of the hassle out of getting a voter ID. Imagine that. The Douglas County Clerk’s Office began this week issuing free voter-ID cards to registered voters, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The local system allows residents to avoid the long lines at the Division of Motor Vehicles. Residents also don’t have to produce a birth certificate (which many older citizens don’t have). Instead, the Clerk’s Office will accept a utility bill, bank statement, government check or other government documents (the same documents used to prove residency when registering to vote). The office also plans to send its employees to nursing homes and other sites to help people obtain IDs.

Voter-ID help for one nursing home; what about others?

During debates about the voter-ID rules this past legislative session, a nursing home in Peabody for people with mental health issues was mentioned frequently. Of the 51 residents at Westview Manor, only nine had IDs. Would they be disenfranchised? Well, last month Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker went to Peabody and personally helped Westview’s residents get IDs. Rucker “helped arrange transportation for residents born in Kansas to go to the nearest courthouse and arranged for courthouse officials to come to the facility and take pictures of residents born out of state for their IDs,” the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. This special attention is great for those residents, but what about other nursing homes? Their residents have to arrange for their own transportation to the local Division of Motor Vehicles, where they will have to wait in long lines. How many of those citizens won’t vote, or will have their votes rejected, because of the ID requirement? An Associated Press review found that more than 1,200 temporary ballots during the 2008 general election were tossed out in Indiana and Georgia, two states that require photo IDs to vote. Its conclusion: “The legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent.”

Voter restrictions too much for one GOP governor

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed three bills this week that his fellow Republicans had pushed as necessary to safeguard the integrity of elections – an issue Republicans in Kansas have promoted as well. Snyder vetoed bills that would have required photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot, required a ballot box affirmation of citizenship, and mandated training for groups doing voter-registration drives – something he said could “cause confusion.” Like Kansas, Michigan already requires those voting at the polls to show photo ID. Jennie Bowser of the National Conference of State Legislatures told the New York Times that “voter ID falls on very stark partisan lines, and there are very few exceptions to that. It’s unusual and notable when somebody crosses it.”

Voter restrictions blocked in Florida, defended in Wichita

The same day last week that Secretary of State Kris Kobach took some heat at a Wichita briefing on Kansas’ new voter-ID law, a federal judge blocked parts of a new Florida law regulating voter-registration drives. The Washington Post reported that it was the first time a federal jurist had struck down provisions in one of the voting laws passed since 2011 in nearly 20 states. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law called it “a breakthrough victory for Florida voters and voting rights advocates nationwide.” Kobach has insisted that Kansas’ law, which requires photo ID to vote as of this year and proof of citizenship to register as of Jan. 1, will be “bulletproof in court.” But critics in Kansas and elsewhere still view these laws as less about fighting the negligible problem of voter fraud and more about suppressing turnout of poor and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic. “If these laws suppress voters, I would not be for it,” Kobach told the Wichita crowd. Turnout will be closely watched as Kansans vote in August and November.

Good reasons not to rush voter-registration mandate

If the multiple messages sent by the 2011 Legislature about when the state should require proof of citizenship for voter registration weren’t enough, the delays in implementing a new Division of Vehicles computer system and completing redistricting should be. Yet the House inexplicably voted again this week to move up the proof-of-citizenship mandate to be effective June 15 rather than Jan. 1. Even if the threat of voter fraud were real and sizable, it wouldn’t justify passing such a document mandate before the state is ready. The Senate should say “no.”

Kobach still wants voting change; court rejects Arizona law

Secretary of State Kris Kobach is still pushing lawmakers to change the date when new voters will have to provide proof of citizenship in order to register. The requirement is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, but Kobach wants it to start this June 15. Meanwhile, last week an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Arizona’s law requiring evidence of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote, saying the requirement violated the National Voting Rights Act. A three-judge appellate panel also struck down the law last October.

Voting video shows fraud is possible but unlikely

A new undercover video by conservative activist James O’Keefe appears to show someone going to a Washington, D.C., voting precinct and pretending to be U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (in photo). The person could have signed the voter roll and voted (but didn’t, saying he wanted to go back to his car and get his ID). The video is supposed to be a gotcha on Holder, who has said that voter fraud isn’t a problem. But the fact that it is possible to commit voter fraud doesn’t mean it is a significant problem – which it isn’t, as a number of studies have shown. As Dan Amira of New York Magazine noted: “If you wanted to, you could risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to vote for someone else, but we’re not sure why you would.” Why risk all that when the fraudulent vote is highly unlikely to alter the outcome of an election? And getting a large group of people to vote fraudulently would be even more difficult to pull off, which is why it doesn’t happen.

Voter-registration bill back from the dead

Secretary of State Kris Kobach is still trying to rush into place a law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. A bill changing the date when the law goes into effect from next January to this June 15 didn’t make it out of a Senate committee, effectively killing it. But like a monster from a bad horror movie, the measure if alive again, as some House members replaced the contents of an unrelated Senate bill with Kobach’s plan. Voting-rights advocates contend that the bill is aimed at suppressing voter turnout and accuse Kobach of resorting to “shady gut-and-go tactics.” But Kobach defended the procedural move as common. “This is an acceptable alternative, and it would allow each senator to vote on this issue,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World.

No rush to require proof of citizenship

It sounds as if the Legislature will ignore Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s urging to start requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in June rather than January. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee held its final scheduled meeting of the session Thursday without voting on the legislation. That’s just as well, because the state Division of Motor Vehicles said last week that the $40 million computer upgrade allowing electronic transfer of related documents won’t be ready until August. And the threat of voter fraud, despite Kobach’s fearmongering, will be just as negligible in January as in June.

Justice Department blocks another voter-ID law

The U.S. Justice Department has blocked Texas’ voter-ID law. It did the same thing to South Carolina’s law in December. The move doesn’t immediately affect Kansas’ voter-ID law because Kansas isn’t required to receive Justice Department approval for voting changes, unlike Texas and South Carolina and other states that have had a history of voting-rights violations.

Kobach won’t take ‘wait’ for answer

Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked state lawmakers last session to require people who register to vote to provide proof of citizenship beginning this election year. Lawmakers went along with the change, even though there is no evidence that voter fraud is a significant problem in Kansas, but decided to delay the requirement until 2013 to provide time to get ready. But after the law was passed, Kobach went back to lawmakers at the end of last session and tried to get them to move up the deadline, which they declined to do. Now Kobach is back again, asking the Legislature to move up the deadline to June 15 of this year – even though local county clerks and election officials have said they have enough on their plate in trying to implement the state’s new voter-ID law. Meanwhile, Wichita voting-rights activists went to the Twin Lakes DMV office Tuesday to raise concerns about whether the state is prepared to provide people with free photo IDs.

Kobach opposes national popular vote

Secretary of State Kris Kobach was among six Republican secretaries of state to join Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., earlier this month to warn against the national popular vote movement, which was motivated by Al Gore’s 2000 loss of the presidency despite winning the popular vote. Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation pledging to award their 132 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationally, even if another candidate wins the majority in their states. For the initiative to take effect, states with a total of at least 270 electoral votes would have to sign on. McConnell called it an “absurd and dangerous concept” that could lead to endless recounts and litigation and a constitutional crisis. Kobach warned that if the national popular vote prevails, “the incentive for voter fraud increases dramatically overall because you can just go to the state that is the weakest link in the chain and has the lowest protections against voter fraud and run up a huge number of fraudulently cast votes in that state much more effectively than going to a battleground state.”

Voter laws likely to deter voting

Kansas figures prominently in the Brennan Center for Justice’s survey of the recently passed 19 laws and two executive actions in 14 states relating to voting. Kansas was among the seven states this year to newly require voters to show photo ID and three to require proof of citizenship to register. The center, based at New York University School of Law, concludes that “these new laws could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.” The report went on: “Although it is too early to quantify how the changes will impact voter turnout, they will be a hindrance to many voters at a time when the United States continues to turn out less than two-thirds of its eligible citizens in presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections.”

Real fraud threat may be electronic voting

Instead of passing new ID laws to combat a handful of cases of voter fraud in the past decade, Secretary of State Kris Kobach and state lawmakers may want to focus on what could be a real threat to secure elections: electronic voting. The Diebold voting machines can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an eighth-grade science education, according to government researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The researchers were able to change voting results without leaving any trace of the manipulation, though it requires access to the machines, Salon.com reported. Previous studies have found other ways to hack electronic voting machines, though they have been more complicated.

Kobach needs to back off

Local election officials aren’t keen on moving up the date when Kansans will have to start showing proof of citizenship to register to vote — from January 2013 to next March — as Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants. Faith, labor and civil rights leaders are organizing to try to block the accelerated deadline. Most significantly, the state’s GOP-led Legislature told Kobach “no” twice on this point, once when it passed his voter ID law in March and again in May. Kobach needs to respect the Legislature and these stakeholders and back off for 2012.